I highly recommend Noah Millman’s smart analysis of the Syria crisis. Excerpt:
Because we do not live in a parliamentary system, after such a vote we’ll simply have to muddle through. But muddle through we will – and have, many times before, through far more serious crises in confidence. I mean, good heavens – the House of Representatives impeached the last Democratic President, and not only did the heavens not fall but there was no discernible diminution on the President’s authority in any sphere. Presidents Ford and Carter faced much more serious rebukes from Congress in foreign policy where there was far clearer damage to Presidential credibility. We don’t generally count their Presidencies as successes – but America’s foreign policy was not crippled. If President Obama loses this vote, he will just have to count his votes more carefully in the future before committing himself where America does not already have clear and binding treaty obligations. Why again would that be so terrible?
Moreover, how much worse would the Obama Administration – and America’s foreign policy – be damaged if it gets bogged down in a proper war in Syria that the country largely opposes? Or, alternatively, if it limits itself to a pinprick response, and al-Assad continues to prosecute his suppression of the rebellion with maximal brutality (whether or not he uses chemical weapons in so doing)? Even if all we care about is the President’s credibility, shouldn’t those possible negative consequences of action be weighed in the balance?
Indeed, the branch whose credibility is at greatest risk right now is Congress. If Congress provides a rubber-stamp authorization for this war against its better judgment, with negligible international support and no warrant under international law, with no popular support and no national interest at stake, and with the Administration making an almost shockingly incoherent case for action, the only possible reason would be the one that Douthat offers: the fear that, if Congress ever dared to have an independent opinion on foreign policy, the result would be a crippled Presidency and a wounded America.